Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.
Mr. Dimmick spent
his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being
teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything
the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately
led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in
general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to
wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial
legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic
quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often,
willing to express an opinion on just about anything.
By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.
A wedding gift arrived in the mail today from a seller on [Insert Name of Popular Craft Website Here], a charming vintage martini set. One of the martini glasses arrived broken. Do I tell the gift giver that this happened, do I contact the seller with this information, or do I just write a lovely thank you note and forget about it. One pitcher and two glasses, so the set is mostly useless. Unless one is making martinis for oneself only.
Dear Shaken and Shattered:
Etiquetteer certainly hopes that your fledgling marriage hasn’t already arrived at the state where you find it necessary to make martinis for one! Usually it takes a few years to get to that unhappy state of affairs . . . and often it’s an unhappy affair that gets one to that state.
Receiving a gift that’s broken is different from receiving a gift that’s unwanted. In the latter case, as Etiquetteer has said so often, no one cares what you want or how you feel. Send a Lovely Note anyway and then put it in your next yard sale, regift outside your Circle of Mutual Acquaintance, or contribute it to a Worthy Tax-Deductible Cause.
But surely it was not the intention of your Benefactor to send you a broken gift to celebrate your wedding. In this case Etiquetteer recommends that you contact your Benefactor with this information right away so that he or she may resolve the situation; this means by phone or email, not a Lovely Note. You should not be asked to do more than repackage the gift to be returned and to receive the apologies of your Benefactor for the inconvenience. Etiquetteer recommends this approach since your Benefactor already has a customer/vendor relationship with the Online Vendor. For all Etiquetteer knows, your Benefactor orders frequently from this Online Vendor. News of deficient service (as well as how satisfactorily the Online Vendor responds) could impact that relationship. Indeed, you may be sufficiently satisfied to become a customer yourself.
At all times you should reassure your Benefactor of how much you appreciate his or her thoughtfulness and generosity, and then send a Lovely Note as soon as an (unbroken) substitute gift is received.
Labor Day 2014 has decidedly come and gone, and the Perfectly Proper now complete their workday toilettes without the summer staples of seersucker, linen, and especially for those who are sticklers of tradition as Etiquetteer is, white shoes.
Each year Etiquetteer feels a tinge of sadness treeing and bagging his white bucks. This is not helped by fashion gurus like Tim Gunn saying all the old rules need to be broken! Perhaps the thrill of white shoes is made more special by the artificial construct of an “official” season in which to wear them. And why not? We only eat Christmas cookies at Christmas. Special things are reserved for special times. Etiquetteer is happy to go along.
Fashion has ever been ephemeral, fleeting, nonsensical, and often frustrating. Abigail Adams herself, fresh from colonial Boston in London, observed “There is a rage of fashion which prevails here with despotick sway. The couleur & kind of silk must be attended to; & the day for putting it on & of[f], no fancy to be exercised, but it is the fashion & that is argument sufficient.”* But let’s face it, the everyday dress of Americans in the 21st century has much less to do with Fashion, or even with Style (alas!) than it does with Careless Convenience. And that, dear readers, is a sad state of affairs.
And with that, Etiquetteer is quickly going to knot a neat bow tie and head to the office.
*Quoted in Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams, by Lynne Withey, p. 161.
Astonishingly, depending on where you look, August 28 is National Bow Tie Day in the United States. So of course Etiquetteer feels it necessary to observe with Perfect Propriety:
With Labor Day this weekend marking the Official End of Summer, the time has come to send the seersucker off to the dry cleaner and sadly, carefully, tree those white shoes until Memorial Day. Preparation for this Seasonal Ritual led Etiquetteer to contemplate how a gentleman’s Perfectly Proper wardrobe changes so completely from summer to autumn.
Etiquetteer’s workplace adopted a “summer casual” dress code years ago, and since it’s a greater sin to be overdressed than underdressed*, Etiquetteer’s “uniform of the day” changed from seersucker suit and bow tie to polo shirts and khakis. (Often in uncompromisingly bold colors chosen by That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, who distracted Etiquetteer with a complicated seating chart.) Polos and khakis, too, will be consigned to home life after Labor Day, and Etiquetteer is not displeased to resume donning crisply tailored suits, shirts with French cuffs, and of course bow ties in the course of daily professional life.
If you have questions about how the change of seasons impact Perfect Propriety, please do send them to Etiquetteer at <queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com>.
*It is still a sin to be underdressed. Don’t do it, and don’t make Etiquetteer come after you.